Trutch Hall residence building on campus was renamed in 2017 due to Trutch’s racist treatment of Indigenous peoples
Four UVic students have put forward a petition to rename Trutch Street in Fairfield. Jade Baird, Ashley Yaredic, Rachel Dufort, and Sicily Fox will be speaking with city councillors on April 22 and presenting the petition for the second time.
The petition started as a group project in James Rowe’s Environmental Studies 407: Mindfulness, Sustainability, and Social Change class. As of April 12 it has garnered 1 330 signatures.
Passionate about the processes of decolonization and reconciliation, Baird and her group want to challenge colonial place names.
“All four of us are settlers, and we believe that decolonization is a settler’s responsibility,” wrote Baird in an email to the Martlet.
The street’s namesake, Joseph Trutch (1826-1904), served as the chief commissioner of land and works in the 1860s and had power and authority to put his racist views into action against First Nations. Trutch claimed that Indigenous peoples lacked a right to their traditional territories, and pushed for their land to be turned over to settlers. His policies reduced the Indigenous-owned land often to 10 per cent of its original size and prevented Indigenous peoples from renting spare land to European settlers for farming.
“One of the most important challenges [that petitioners are facing] is to see whether there is a political will among the local politicians on city council to move forward with this effort to rename Trutch Street,” said Rueben Rose-Redwood, professor of geography and chair of urban studies at UVic.
Rose-Redwood was a member of the naming committee that advised the university administration to remove Trutch’s name from the student residence building called Trutch Hall after Indigenous Studies student Lisa Schnitzler put forward a petition in 2017. The building is now named Lansdowne Residence #1.
Schnitzler’s effort was not the first on the campus. The first petition about Trutch Hall was rejected in 2010 by the university under the leadership of the president David Turpin, for whom the former Social Sciences & Mathematics Building is now named.
Now, the effort to abandon commemoration of Joseph Trutch is moving beyond campus.
Baird and her group first presented the petition to the council on March 25. “We received strong signals of support from some councillors, while others have been dodging our calls, or told us that our presentation was ‘fulsome.’”
The students recognize that social change takes time and are ready to continue the dialogue with the city council.
“In my view, the case of Trutch Street is a textbook example of a street that deserves to be renamed,” said Rose-Redwood, who is going to join the student petitioners on April 22.
“If we continue to maintain these honorific commemorations in the present then we become complicit in their legacy and injustices that they committed […] and if we can’t even rename a two-block line street in the city of Victoria, how do we expect to grapple with much broader issues of decolonization?”